Nirvana in Fire

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Name: 琅琊榜; Lángyá Bǎng, Nirvana in Fire
Abbreviation(s): NiF
Creator: Hai Yan, Kong Sheng, Li Xue
Date(s): 2015
Medium: TV (book)
Country of Origin: China
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Nirvana in Fire is a Chinese historical drama TV show that aired in 2015. It is based on a novel of the same name (琅琊榜, Lang Ya Bang) by Hai Yan that was originally serially published online. The drama was very popular and successful and won multiple awards.

Plot synopsis

Twelve years ago, the Chiyan army is betrayed and slaughtered because the Emperor believes that they have conspired with Crown Prince Qi to overthrow him, and orders the execution of him and his supporters. The Chiyan general's son, Lin Shu, manages to survive, but in the process is poisoned with a rare toxin. Rescued by the master of Langya Hall and his son, Lin Chen, they manage to contain and counteract most of its effects, but it leaves him with a drastically changed appearance and a weakened body that is prone to sickness and unable to fight. In the hopes of finding out what happened, Lin Shu creates the identity of Mei Changsu and becomes the leader of an alliance in the pugilist world and a political strategist.

In the present day, Lin Shu returns to the capital under the name Su Zhe with a plan to uncover the truth of the Chiyan conspiracy and clear the names of Prince Qi and the Chiyan army. During his time away, the court has grown corrupt under the influence of the Emperor's two most favoured sons, the new Crown Prince and Prince Yu, who are in a battle for power. In a deadlock, they seek to court Mei Changsu's favour in hopes of gaining a political advantage over the other. In secret, Mei Changsu instead chooses to help his childhood friend, the unfavoured Prince Jing (Xiao Jingyan), ascend the throne, but leaves Jingyan in the dark about his true identity, believing it would distract him from their shared goal of getting the Chiyan case overturned. Jingyan, for his part, does not trust Mei Changsu, as he believes Mei Changsu uses people as pawns without any regard for their feelings, but notes that Mei Changsu has some suspiciously similar habits to his dead friend.

Meanwhile, as Mei Changsu begins putting his plans into place, he comes to the attention of other allies, enemies, and old friends who once knew Lin Shu - one of which is Lin Shu's former fiancée, Mu Nihuang, who, like Jingyan, begins to have suspicions about his true identity. With all these new stressors, Mei Changsu's plan to uncover the truth and clear Prince Qi and the Chiyan Army of all wrongdoing while keeping his identity a secret becomes a dangerous dance of court intrigue, and a race against his rapidly worsening health.

NiF is very popular among fans of tropes along the lines of identity porn, revenge stories, loyalty themes, and political conspiracies.

Chinese-speaking fandom

English-speaking fandom

English-speaking fandom is heavily based on subbed versions of the TV show (although a few authors have incorporated elements from the book, like Jingyan's wolf Foya). Though the novel has been fully translated unofficially by fans, the translations are spread across different sources and can be difficult to find, perhaps accounting for the English fandom's focus on the TV show.

(To add: when and how it became popular, the "join us, you will cry"-recruitment pitches)

Characters' names are often abbreviated: Jingyan = JY, Lin Shu = LS, Mei Changsu = MCS, Zhanying = ZY etc.


NiF fanworks range from even more angsty than canon to pure fluff (though there is more of the former than the latter). Popular tropes are post-canon works where Mei Changsu survives and other kinds of canon-divergent fix-it fic, as well as Modern AUs.

The most popular pairing by far is Lin Shu/Xiao Jingyan. The most popular het pairing is Lin Shu/Mu Nihuang.

Because the Chinese fandom is much larger than the English-speaking one and also has excellent stories, there are quite a few translations from Chinese into English.

NiF is the third most popular cdrama fandom for podfic, after MDZS/The Untamed and Guardian.[1]

An annual gift exchange has been running on AO3 since 2017: Nirvana in Fire Exchange. All fanwork types are allowed.


Nirvana in Fire 2

In 2017 a sequel was aired, entitled: "Nirvana in Fire 2: The Wind Blows in Changlin." It takes place around 40 years after the death of Mei Changsu, and follows the members of the house of Changlin among military and political crises.

The English-speaking fandom's reaction was lukewarm: while few outright hated it, very few were enthusiastic about it and many fans of the first season didn't even finish the second.

There are few fanworks about the second season.



  1. ^ As of 10 October 2021, the sidebar filter on Bookmarked Items in Cnovel & Cdrama Podfics lists Nirvana in Fire (TV) with 93 podfics, after Módào Zǔshī - Mòxiāng Tóngxiù (794), 陈情令 | The Untamed (TV) (781), and 镇魂 | Guardian (TV 2018) (164).